Morris Inn completes expansion
Ann Marie Jakubowski | Monday, September 2, 2013
After a $30 million, nine-month renovation process, Notre Dame’s Morris Inn reopened to the public Friday for the first time since the project began in October.
The building expanded from 72,000 to 137,000 square feet, with 150 guest rooms, new ballrooms and meeting rooms, a fireside outdoor terrace and a separate entrance on the north side. Director and general manager Joe Kurth said the Inn, known as “the living room of the University,” will serve as an “economic engine” for Notre Dame.
“What many will remember as the old twin bed rooms now have plush king beds and double queens, and the bathrooms … are now spacious and comfortable,” Kurth said. “The rooms themselves went from an average of 260 square feet to 375 square feet, and the white tent outside was replaced with a beautiful ballroom, so we can now host those January weddings a little more comfortably.”
Although the hotel was closed during the nine-month construction process, no employees of the Inn were laid off during the past year, Kurth said.
“At Notre Dame, we talk about both what we do and how we do it. The construction team worked double shifts from 7 a.m. to midnight every day, essentially doing an 18-month project in nine months,” he said. “Not a single associate lost his job.
“In corporate America, that wouldn’t be a possibility, but at Notre Dame, it was 50-plus people placed in jobs around campus, and as we reopened, they had the option to return with us.”
With the expanded property, the hotel now employs over 150 associates compared to the 65 before, Kurth said. As part of the renovations, the Inn combined business operations with McKenna Hall, home of the Notre Dame Conference Center.
“Our core business is hosting academic conferences and supporting the University in its entire academic mission,” he said. “Having options in both buildings provides us with a lot of flexibility, and we’ve been tasked with returning profits to the academic mission since the University spent over 30 million [dollars] on renovation work.”
Kurth said the public open house held last week brought many students into the building for the first time, and he hopes the renovations will help the Inn partner with the University overall to improve life on campus.
“It was amazing how many students came in to the open house like ‘Wow, are we allowed to be here?’ We want to be a good partner to the University, which means connecting with students,” Kurth said.
Megan Akatu, director of sales for the Morris Inn, said the new space will have several points of interaction with student life.
“Our restaurants are open every day from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and we accept Domer Dollars everywhere in here,” Akatu said. “There’s a small gift shop which is part of the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, and when your parents are in town it’s a great place to dine with them. As far as student functions go, the ballrooms would be an ideal space for dances too.”
Other new services include valet parking for day and night events and iPad technology in each room. Kurth said the Inn is seeking LEED Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council as well, partnering with Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability to include features such as a “green roof” for storm water management and improved air quality, LED lights throughout the building and single stream recycling.
The original donation for the 2012 renovation came from Ernestine Morris Carmichael Raclin, according to Kurth. She is the daughter of Ernest and Ella Morris, who made the 1952 version possible, and Kurth said her contribution was the starting gift that was joined by donations from other benefactors.
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